I’ll admit upfront that I had never heard of Middle Kids before this review. I picked up the review for their second album Today We’re The Greatest completely blind after reading a description that included references to plenty of bands I enjoy. I realise that’s possibly a very boring way to kick off a review, but if boring things like that can lead to me hearing albums as good as this, then keep them coming.
Indie Alternative Pop Rock Whatever You Want To Call Them bands can sometimes be exactly what I need to hear, or they will be the last thing I reach for in my library, but from the start Middle Kids state their claim for the former on this album. Opener ‘Bad Neighbours’ is a moody, atmospheric track that’s sort of haunting and totally not what I was expecting here, while every song that follows seems to move into a new Indie sub genre. Folksy acoustic KT Tunstall-ish rock on R U 4 Me, dreamy balladry on ‘Golden Star’ or heavy-guitar drive ‘Cellophane’. It jumps around a fair bit.
The most obvious thing to love about this as a record is lead singer Hannah Joy’s performance. She’s such a dynamic lead singer, often haunting, sometimes hard edged, but always emotive. She elevates these songs so much it’s hard to imagine them being anywhere near this good without her. On ‘Lost In Los Angeles’ her voice soars and then retracts back into delicate inflections. On ‘Summer Hill’ she’s like an Indie rock equivalent of what MUNA’s Katie Gavin is to electro pop; in fact this comparison in their voices was so striking to me at points that I genuinely had to check that she wasn’t actually in this band too.
There’s a welcoming warmth to everything, which makes for an instantly lovely feeling as a listener, even if it does leave you wishing for something with more bite at times. Across the 12 tracks, the band settle into a decent rhythm, musically and lyrically. It’s full of little details, but also straightforward and plain spoken at times, which may not give some people enough to grab onto.
Accessibility is seen as a positive on this record, so if you need to be surprised and thrown off guard as a listener then this isn’t the album for you. Songs like ‘Lost In Los Angeles’ and ‘Some People Stay In Our Hearts Forever’ have a familiarity that makes them feel like songs I’ve known for years instantly. Whether that means they are a little beige is up to you, I certainly enjoy the familiar feeling it gives me.
‘I Don’t Care’ is probably the most striking moment on the album, the hook of ‘I don’t fucking care I gotta do what I want to’ seems laser focused on a festival crowd singing along in a field. I’d say I’d lean more towards a track like ‘Run With You’ instead as a more complete pop record, but I can see ‘I Don’t Care’ becoming a fan favourite live.
Today We’re The Greatest manages to capture a solid energy throughout, Indie Pop songs that are consistently good if all a little nice. It’s Hannah’s voice that draws me back every time though, she’s such a dynamic vocalist and elevates songs like ‘I Don’t Care’ and the closing title track by such a degree that you can look past some of the predictability elsewhere.
Words by Sam Atkins